Instant Impressions for Week 14
Top players at two positions injured in key fantasy week
These are the times that try men's souls.
Thomas Paine had it right (though women's souls are pretty tried right about now, too). It's not often that the No. 1-ranked player at two different positions goes down in the same week, least of all in the fantasy playoffs. Adrian Peterson and Rob Gronkowski, two of the very best players in the NFL, each were seen writhing in pain Sunday. Peterson reportedly sprained his right foot, and though he was able put some weight on it, he was eventually carted to the locker room. (He was seen in street clothes on the sidelines late in the game.) Gronk took one of the most vicious legal shots you'll ever see from T.J. Ward, a smash on his right knee that caused Gronkowski to need a cart, too. A source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday morning that Gronkowski tore the ACL and MCL in his knee.
In Peterson's stead, Toby Gerhart played well. In a wild game against the Baltimore Ravens, Gerhart scored what should've been a 41-yard game-winning TD, except the Ravens and Minnesota Vikings decided to go back-and-forth with game-winning TDs like 200 times. In all, Gerhart wound up with 15 carries for 89 yards. Peterson will almost certainly be legitimately questionable for Week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles, which makes Gerhart a viable add.
Gronk-wise, unfortunately we're looking at the nuclear option. Matthew Mulligan made one big grab in the Pats' come-from-behind victory, but he's no answer as a pass-catcher. There is no answer at TE as a pass-catcher in New England. Shane Vereen will become the most crucial of Tom Brady's weapons, but Brady himself probably will take a step back to where he was early in the season. Man.
Let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• The snow game in Philadelphia presented the week's weirdest environs, and the results were appropriately outlandish. LeSean McCoy set a single-game Eagles record for rushing yards in a game despite a rocky beginning (midway through the second quarter, he had 17 yards on nine carries), ending with 217 yards on 29 totes. His performance was impressive as it sounds, as Shady was ludicrously elusive while everyone else was slipping all over the place. Nick Foles threw his first interception of the season but can't really be blamed (the first-half conditions were ridiculous), and even when he didn't do much throwing it, he stretched for a 1-yard TD run. That guy just has a horseshoe lodged somewhere on his person right now.
• Going the other direction, Reggie Bush apparently reinjured his calf in pregame warmups and never played a snap. Joique Bell got a man's workload: 27 touches for 127 total yards. But Matthew Stafford was a wreck, fumbling on five occasions though he lost only one. Stafford's line -- 10-of-25 for 148 yards and no scores or picks -- is a crusher, and it held back Calvin Johnson, too. Megatron caught only three balls for 49 yards. The Detroit Lions were victimized by some shaky officiating, but also made their usual passel of dumb plays. Yet if you survived their awfulness Sunday, get those guys right back in there next Monday night against the Ravens.
• Lamar Miller was finally supposed to be a lead back, but somebody forgot to tell Daniel Thomas. Last we heard about Thomas, he was supposedly out for the season because of sprained ankle ligaments. And then he was at least definitely out this week. And then he was active. Miller got a couple of series to himself in the first quarter, but Thomas got involved in the second stanza. When Miller took a big hit to the head in the third quarter, the carries were 6-3 in favor of Miller. But then Miller was concussed, and Thomas took over, first scoring on a 4-yarder, and then making the game's key play, a rumbling 55-yard run with four minutes left in the game. I don't think Thomas is a great player, but if Miller is out in Week 15, Thomas will have a great matchup, versus the Patriots.
• Wes Welker also suffered a concussion on a neck-wrenching hit from George Wilson in the second quarter of Sunday's game, his second concussion of the season. He had five catches for 61 yards and a TD before the injury, and also dropped a second score, but the worry obviously is that he could miss time going forward. The Denver Broncos have three plus matchups the rest of the season (San Diego, at Houston, at Oakland), but may choose to play it safe with their slot machine, especially because they play this Thursday.
• The big plays keep coming for Josh Gordon. Through almost three quarters, Gordon had three catches on five targets for 42 yards. Then with 1:37 left in the third quarter, he ran a kind-of-clumsy short slant where he actually stumbled, but Aqib Talib was so jumpy from worrying Gordon was going to run past him, he lost a step, Gordon gathered himself and just exploded. I've said many times that I don't think Gordon is a possessor of elite deep speed, but I may need to re-think that after watching him run past Talib for an 80-yard TD. It was an impressive play, and it ensured that Gordon would score at least 18 fantasy points for the fourth time in his past five games. He's still not a polished route runner and he still doesn't have an above-average quarterback, which is why Gordon won't be a top-five option at WR for me heading into next season. (Top 10? Probably yes.) But even without those things, Gordon just submitted the highest four-game receiving yardage total in NFL history (breaking Calvin Johnson's mark set earlier this year, so yeah, maybe it's not the most storied record, but still). Imagine what he'll be like when he does run the full route tree and the Cleveland Browns find him a franchise QB. Time to admit Mike Holmgren did something right, spending a supplemental second-rounder on Gordon.
• Stevan Ridley was active Sunday and didn't get his first carry until the second quarter; all told, LeGarrette Blount had eight carries, as did Ridley. (Vereen was the star at RB, with 12 catches for 153 yards and a TD.) Blount had a couple nice moments for sure, doing nothing to get himself benched, but when the game got tight late and the Pats needed something, Ridley was the man. We still didn't see enough focus on Ridley for you to feel good about starting him against the Miami Dolphins in Week 15, but if Ridley was dropped in your league and you've got a bench spot, he's worth an add.
• Rashad Jennings never got cleared to practice last week after his Thanksgiving concussion, and wound up a game-day inactive. Because Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart also were out with injury, Marcel Reece got the start and busted a 63-yard TD run as the Red Sea of the New York Jets defense parted for him, and he wound up with 21 touches for 161 yards. The Jets led the whole day, but this wasn't really a case of garbage-time stats. Reece was legitimately the best player for the Oakland Raiders. It's within the realm of possibility he could start again Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
• Statistically speaking, Andrew Luck busted out of his slump Sunday. But the Indianapolis Colts didn't play well and were pretty much ground into dust by the Cincinnati Bengals, and Luck compiled 326 yards passing and four TDs mostly in frantic mode. (After the game's first 35 minutes, the Bengals led 21-0 and Luck was 8-of-16 for 77 yards.) Indy's supposedly startable fantasy weapons, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener, did not partake of the garbage, going for a combined seven catches for 38 yards. Meanwhile, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill each scored two TDs. Rogers -- who had previously never seen an NFL target -- was a hyped undrafted rookie this summer, a transfer from the University of Tennessee who was in the same league as Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, but who has been a problem child. If he ever puts the mental and emotional side of things together, he'd certainly be a vast improvement over Darrius Heyward-Bey.
• Dennis Pitta returned from injured reserve and his hip surgery, and played a ton Sunday. He had six catches on 11 targets for 48 yards and a TD. With Gronkowski probably gone, Pitta will be the waiver wire's best replacement option. Considering how frequently Joe Flacco threw it to Pitta last season -- he was 10th among all TEs with 91 targets in 2012 -- it's fair to argue Pitta immediately joins the often-frustrating TE middle class as soon as next Monday night against the Lions.
• Robert Griffin III continues to play a horrendous brand of football, and for the second straight week, Alfred Morris was reduced to being an innocent bystander. Morris had some mojo going on the Washington Redskins' second possession, but then RG III threw a pick, the Chiefs scored to go up 17-0, and that was basically it. I remember the beginning of last season when I was skeptical of Morris because he's not huge and not fast. But I've stood corrected for a long time. He's a very good player, one of those guys whose vision and ability to translate what he sees into decisive action is truly rare. But the Skins just couldn't stick with the run, as they fell behind 31-0 just five minutes into the second quarter. It's frustrating, but I think you probably have to stick with Morris next week against the Atlanta Falcons, assuming you survived.
• It sure is nice when Bobby Rainey eases your fantasy worries on the game's second play from scrimmage. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to use Rainey as their feature back and gave him 22 carries, compared to seven for Brian Leonard. But the only run that really mattered was an 80-yard score (Rainey had 47 yards on his other 21 totes) and foreshadowed an easy Bucs win. The Buffalo Bills were inept on offense, and C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were just shut down by a crazily athletic-looking Tampa defense. It makes you wonder what might've happened had the Bucs not been so snake-bitten early this season, and/or if they'd handed their starting job to Mike Glennon out of camp. Either way, Rainey has a bad matchup next week against the San Francisco 49ers, but the workload continues to make him at least a flex.
• The Raiders' D/ST looked like the stream of the week, going up against a scuffling Geno Smith. And then they allowed 37 scoreboard points against a squad that had scored 20 points in its past three games combined. Awesome.
• I think Peyton Manning is OK playing in the cold, yeah?
• Matt Prater set an NFL record with a 64-yard field goal before halftime Sunday. If your fantasy league doesn't reward 100 bonus points for setting a field goal record … uh, shame on you?